One way or another, the Yankees keep winning baseball games. Early in the season, the lineup’s surprising power stole the show. For a while, the rotation seemed to be carrying the most significant load. Lately, it’s been the ...
One way or another, the Yankees keep winning baseball games. Early in the season, the lineup’s surprising power stole the show. For a while, the rotation seemed to be carrying the most significant load. Lately, it’s been the bullpen that’s provided the stability. Through injuries and call-ups and minor trades, this team has defied expectations in every which way, and surely there’s some satisfaction in that.
“I don’t know if anybody cares,” Travis Hafner said. “We just want to win. I don’t think anybody cares what people think. (There are) a lot of guys just coming together that just want to win ballgames and get to the playoffs and go from there.”
One thing that’s noticeable in the absence of some familiar veterans is that the Yankees clubhouse hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still a generally friendly place, relatively soft spoken and business-like. Veterans have filled the leadership role, and young players have been developed to fall into place.
The Yankees might be defying your expectations, and they might be defying my expectations, but there’s a sense that none of that matters in that room. It was never about your expectations or my expectations.
“What I’m seeing is guys are coming through,” Joe Girardi said. “Guys are getting the job done. There’s no quit. They come to the ballpark excited to play every day, and they’re finding ways to win games. Sometimes when you look at our stats, we’re not at the top of anything. But these guys have just done a really good job.”
Tonight’s was a game of expectations being destroyed. The Yankees haven’t blown a lot of leads this season, but they blew two of them tonight — with CC Sabathia on the mound, no less — yet they found a way to win by coming back against Jim Johnson and the Orioles bullpen, which fully asserted itself last year.
Four home runs in the first nine innings, culminating in Hafner’s tying shot in the ninth. Then the Yankees played small ball in the 10th, taking the lead on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. Mariano Rivera, of course, did what he’s done 17 times already this season.
The Yankees didn’t make it easy on themselves, and at times they didn’t make it look pretty, but if you expected them to lose, they proved you wrong once again.
“We definitely keep you guys on your toes, that’s for sure,” Wells said. “We haven’t gone out and slaughtered too many teams. We need to go out and score a few more runs, let the back end of our bullpen relax a little bit. We’ve kept them taxed for pretty much every day of the season. We need to hopefully do a better job. It will come, we just have to continue to be consistent and win these close ones. We’re starting to get pieces of the puzzle back here slowly but surely, so things will work out.”
They have so far.
• Of course, this was supposed to be a day of rest for Wells. He would up driving in the winning run. “Nice and refreshed,” he said. “… The way the game was shaping up, close ballgame, any time any of us have an off day we want to be ready in case something happens. Joe asked me if I was ready in the eighth and I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘Go play.’ Obviously the most important one came in my second at-bat. It was good to get in that situation. Early on in the at-bat I was trying to get him over, but he’s got good stuff. I got to two strikes and it was just a matter of trying to put the bat on the ball.”
• With his 10th inning double — the one that ultimately led to the go-ahead run — Ichiro now has a 20-game hitting streak at Camden Yards. He has the third-highest batting average (.353) among active players against the Orioles.
• Of course, that 10th inning also included Hafner’s second hit of the night, an RBI single. His first hit had been the game-tying homer in the ninth. “You’re just kind of lookin